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Helping Kids See Past Commercialism

by Tiffany in Children

A little girl walking in the woods

Childhood obesity is at an all time high and kids are killing each other over the newest technical gadget or fashion craze. Are these the after effects of too much commercialism? TV is encouraging a sedentary lifestyle that is seeing our kids developing habits that foster obesity.

Not only are TV programs monopolizing our children’s attention and imagination (or what’s left of it) but the commercials are too. Even if a child eventually loses interest in a program he’s watching the commercials keep him glued with boisterous messages and music promoting products and an image of what is hip or cool today.

Commercialism is everywhere making it very hard for parents to control. Visit your nearest theater and you are bombarded by commercials for the first 20 minutes of the show. Large companies “buy” placement in the movies and television shows to make their products look cool. I suspect cigarette companies do this. Commercialism is also in our schools and in “sponsored” educational materials sometimes given to our kids. I recently read about one school system that had McDonald’s coupons on the report cards. But what if you don’t want your children to accept blindly that these institutions and products are beneficial to us? How do we keep these values from infiltrating our households?

While this may seem monumental parents can play a significant and role in keeping commercialism at bay for their kids. Here are some ideas:

  • Teach by example. If you resist consumerism you will be able to teach with conviction to your kids the merits of resisting consumerism.
  • Sew your kids clothing and teach them to sew as well. This eliminates the logos and brands issues associated with store bought clothes and it teaches kids a valuable craft. Kids might also find they have a talent for designing. At 16 years old I remember making myself a vintage gown from a 1940s war era pattern. It is gorgeous and people raved over it…there was nothing like it available at stores and I LOVED that. Don’t sew? Take classes…at your local fabric store….its never too late. Your kids could also take classes.
  • Try turning off the TV for a week. Then try 2 weeks. Then have a discussion about the merits of having a TV when quality news and entertainment can be obtained elsewhere. I follow and unschooling philosophy as far as TV and movies go. I don’t have restrictions or limits but yet we don’t watch that much TV…the key is to provide alternatives that are vastly more fun and entertaining.
  • Expose kids to other media – like art/surrealist films, art exhibits, public lectures on topics that might interest them. We are BIG on art in my house. We have all the supplies I could need for just about any project. This week my oldest painted a half dozen beautiful landscapes, he made several 3-D pictures, a Mardi Gras style mask for me, and a Pinata for his Dad for father’s day. All I did was supply him with the means. I have had to cover his bedroom floor in cheap scrap carpets because the paint gets EVERYWHERE!
  • Teach your children to be independent thinkers who do not follow. Visit your local library and introduce them to great people in history who were independent thinkers (develop your own list based on your heroes or talk to the librarian). This is one reason I have such issues with public schools. The teachers generally don’t like independent thought and being challenged by their students…even in first grade I can already see this. Even in art class my son tells me the teacher has rules about the techniques one uses to paint or color…WTH? There are certainly some great teachers out there but there are also plenty of bad ones with control issues. I don’t want my children to “conform” or be “conditioned”. This is why I encourage freedom of expression in our home and we don’t get hung up on societal expectations or arbitrary rules.
  • Encourage your kids to get involved in creative play. Introduce them to great outdoor games like hopscotch, four-square, hide and seek, double-dutch skipping, jumping rope, dodge ball, soccer and a host of other neighborhood games that will keep your kids busy and “physically active” for hours. The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls are good places to start looking for ideas.
  • Grow your own food and involve your kids. Discuss the strong connections in the natural world and how our actions impact them. Most kids haven’t a clue about where food comes from and why 80% of what you find at the grocery store doesn’t even resemble real food.
  • Encourage your kids to think about social issues outside of themselves. Help them to be empathetic and to have concern for the needs of the most vulnerable in your community. Discuss ways in which your family can help out a person in need. Go through the house and put together a bag of food items that you can take to the local food bank.